WASHINGTON – As baby boomers look ahead to retirement, they'd prefer a home that is affordable, accessible to medical care and close to family. But an Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll finds that amid a shaky economy, few think it's likely they'll move in retirement.
Shelley Wernholm, a 47-year-old single mother of two who works for a health insurance company in Cleveland, said she wanted to retire and move to a new home by 60. But her pension was eliminated five years ago, her personal investments tanked during the recession and her home of 21 years has lost more than half of its value.
"I was hoping I'd be moving to a beach somewhere, anywhere, preferably a warm one," Wernholm said. "But I'm not moving. I can't. It's hard to remain optimistic."
The 77 million-strong generation born between 1946 and 1964 is increasingly worried about retirement and their finances amid the economic crisis of the past three years.
Just 9 percent say they are strongly convinced they'll be able to live comfortably in retirement.
Overall, about 6 in 10 baby boomers say their workplace retirement plans, personal investments or real estate lost value during the economic downturn. Of this group, 53 percent say they'll have to delay retirement because their nest eggs shrank.
Financial experts say those losses, including home prices that have dropped by a third nationwide over the past four years, have left boomers anxious about moving and selling their homes.
"There's a mistrust of the real estate market that we didn't have before," said Barbara Corcoran, a New York-based real estate consultant. "There's a concern about whether people will get money out of their house. They envision the home as a problem, not an asset, and this unshakable belief in homes as a tool for retirement has been shaken to the core."
Fifty-two percent of boomers say they are unlikely to move someplace new in retirement, unchanged from March. And 4 in 10 say they are very likely to stay in their current home throughout all of their retirement.
Older baby boomers are more apt to say they're already settled in for their golden years; 48 percent say it's extremely or very likely they'll stay in the home they live in now throughout their retirement, compared with 35 percent among younger boomers. The same is true of those who've lived in their current home for 20 or more years.
Midwestern and rural baby boomers also are more inclined to stay put.
Not surprisingly, higher-earning boomers who make more than $100,000 a year are more likely to buy a new home during retirement.
Why buy a new home? About 4 in 10 of those who say it's likely they'll buy a new home in retirement would prefer a smaller one. Other important considerations include being close to medical offices or hospitals (39 percent); a different, and perhaps warmer, climate (30 percent); a more affordable home (25 percent); and being closer to family (15 percent).
Just 8 percent of those surveyed are looking for a larger home and only 10 percent are searching for a city with more services.
John Fortune, a 60-year-old small business owner in Scotch Plains, N.J., outside Newark, said he'd ideally like to move in his retirement years. But he's unsure about the future and whether he'll have any money left over after putting three kids through college.
"I don't expect to fully retire," said Fortune, who runs a business that sharpens knives, tools and other cutlery. "It just depends on what happens to the economy. I'd like to find someplace that is warmer and doesn't have the high taxes but we'll just have to see."
Mothers were far more likely than fathers to say that living near their children was an important consideration in planning retirement housing.
When those kids have left the nest, baby boomer parents are most likely to have turned their children's rooms into a new guest bedroom, entertainment room or home office. Three out of 4 say they would prefer visiting friends and family stay with them instead of getting a hotel room.
Boomers are more deeply attuned to their retirement years than other age groups, and many say they'll keep working during retirement. A total of 73 percent of those polled said they would keep working, compared with 67 percent in March, a bigger percentage than any other generation.
Sherry Wise, a 53-year-old agricultural economist in Lorton, Va., a suburb of Washington, said she is worried she will have to work well into her 60s and beyond in order to continue paying her mortgage, keep up an investment property in New Mexico and look after her two daughters.
"The one thing I know is that you can't count on anything anymore. This economy has gotten so screwed up," Wise said. "We're just going to try to earn as much money as possible."
The AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll was conducted Oct. 5-12 by Knowledge Networks of Palo Alto, Calif. The poll involved online interviews with 1,095 people born between 1946 and 1964, as well as companion interviews with an additional 315 adults of other age groups. The margin of sampling error for baby boomers was plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Knowledge Networks used traditional telephone and mail sampling methods to randomly recruit respondents. People selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.
AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
Questions and results: http://surveys.ap.org